Te Rua Manga (the Needle) and Te Manga, is the highest point of the Cook Islands. Picture: SIVA GOUNDER/22061004
This land is your land this land is my land from the deep blue ocean to the high green mountains, from the taro swamp lands to the outer islands, this land was made for you and me.
Land is the gift of nature, the earth beneath our feet, the provider of food and foundation for our many exploits and endeavours and the bane and cause of every war in the world now and forever from our past to our future.
comment how primitive we are with our fighting especially in the land courts.
In the outer islands they still work upon traditional giving of land without
complaint. In Rarotonga the introduction
of the English land court has allowed the nit picking of lawyers and their laws
to overturn practices long held and accepted as cultural rulings. In the end it
is not the families who benefit, it is the lawyers and the land agents who
receive payment whether they win or lose. In the eyes of land lawyers, they
have a job to do, their own family to support and due to the lack of choice and
the lure of money can be hired by the ‘other side’ in the appeal. The advantage
is they know the story and weaknesses of the first family they represented. Families
fighting each other over land continues their employment.
are good land lawyers, genuine, caring and overworked, and there are those who
are ‘ambulance chasers’ jumping in to find any small law loophole to squeeze
themselves into payments worth thousands in tala or land. They may not have
blood rights to the land but they will be the only ones benefitting from the
constant court appearances and appeals.
often befalls to those living here to take care of the land acquired by the
family for the legacy of future generations, who may never come back to live. Some
come back to succeed their slice of paradise only to leave once it’s settled,
to be maintained by those who remain. Others come hat in hand asking for land
so they can raise their family and live here in the Cooks. Then after securing the land by emotional
blackmail, they offer it up for sale for the highest bidder and the family who believed
their story now have to pay lawyers to fight the sale of family land going to
the generation living here, we inherit the legacy of our ancestors who have
told the family the history of where they planted, who they gifted land and
why. Sometimes, like Muri it’s for
future generations of the community who can use and benefit from the land.
sit on family land often in prime beachfront areas. What happens as the new generations evolve
not agreeing to religion on the land? Could prime real estate leave the prayers
of the elders for sand mining and profiteering of a generation suffering to
live in this world with higher costs than those of the past?
for land is fueled by greed. Those who already have land want more and will deny
anyone new coming to have land. The local cry is ‘what have you done for the
land?’ Show your intention, service on the land used to be the currency of
favour by the elders towards consent.
this is no guarantee of getting land. You can have majority landowner signatures,
majority shares agreed and the land court can still rule against you due to one
objection from family.
disputes can result in ‘guns drawn at dawn’ scenarios as seen in Ukraine and
recently in Turangi but other more manipulative and sneaky ways are being used
in Rarotonga via the new family law act.
family law act was created to protect the vulnerable and abused victims of
domestic violence. In its initial reading several senior police officers could
see problems in the wording of it. This law designed to give ‘battered or
abused’ women instant protection from threat, has become the go to for land
hungry conspirators to kick family off land they want for themselves.
lawyers are seeing it constantly and police are writing protection orders like
vouchers for obvious land issues. With no evidence and a good Hollywood
audition one can convince police to immediately issue a trespass notice to
unsuspecting family members, even if police agree it’s not a domestic abuse
are being divided by a law that skips mediation and goes straight for the
jugular. Who wins? Is greed by malice the law for the land now? Elders say, go slowly, tread carefully, all
decisions have consequences. The land speaks, it was here before you it will
remain long after you. It sees how you treat it and the spirit of those before